How do I care for my mare’s yellow, urine stained tail? Or perhaps that super messy gelding that loves to drape his tail in the wet spots?
Mares present a few special grooming (and handling) considerations. For some mares, their tails are a urine soaked sticky mess that can be a nightmare to deal with. Here are a few tips on managing just such a tail. Remember that the quality of hair that grows from the tail is a result of diet, genetics, climate and overall health. No product can “create” the perfect tail, but some can help us groom what we have to make it better. You can learn more about nutrition for hair and tail growth here.
Also remember that daily care for a few minutes a day is much easier than massive, last ditch efforts when things are horribly sticky, tangled, and stained. Brushing a brittle tail that has been damaged by urine is a sure fire way to create more damage, so a plan of attack is in order here.
-Start from scratch if you need to and maintain from there. Create a clean, stain free tail that is conditioned and “sealed” and then you can begin your daily care. Start by using a mild shampoo and conditioner followed by a white vinegar rinse/soak. I like the more natural types, and by this I mean shampoos with ingredients that you can pronounce. You may be tempted to go crazy with a blueing shampoo, which you may need to. However, these shampoos can make the tail hairs more brittle and prone to picking up stain. It’s a fine line.
-Shampoo, condition, and white vinegar again. And again if you need to. You can do the white vinegar treatment easily by dunking the tail into a bucket and holding it there for a few minutes, only if this is safe. (Stand close to the side.)
-Follow with a detangler. I like to use one when the hair is damp, and I will only pick out and/or brush the tail when it’s almost dry.
NOW you have a basis to start daily care. For some mares, these options will help you prevent urine stains and urine damage to the tail:
-Tail bags. I’ve never been a huge fan, but for some horses, they are wonderful. Never use them above the tail bone, and undo them everyday. You will compromise fly control, and some horses don’t tolerate them at all. For some mares, they act as a urine collecting bag and you have more stains than without the bag.
-Braid the tail. And I don’t mean for a show or below the tailbone. I’m talking about the shorter hairs that grow from the tail bone. You can see them when you (and your mare) hold the tail out parallel to the ground. These sections of that hair fall down are the most likely to be soaked with urine and therefore brittle and subject to breakage….see the cycle? Consider doing a very loose french braid with these sections to keep them out of the urine stream. Keeping it loose with help prevent tail scratching/rubbing and help your mare stay comfortable.
These shorter tail hairs are often coated in urine.
A loose braid can "contain" the shorter hairs, and a loose braid is usually not itchy!
Just braid down to the end of the tailbone. This saves the bulk of the tail for fly protection. I use a sturdy human hair pony tail holder for extra durability.
-Gently wash as needed, followed by the conditioner and white vinegar. Keeping the tail untangled daily and clean will help you prevent stains and breakage.
What has worked for you?